coming out

Semantics and Half: How to Come Out?

The power of the choice of words, and some things to consider

Coming out is hard. On that, we all agree.

Everybody that has struggled with their sexuality or their gender orientation knows about it. Families, relatives and friends of LGBTQ people, on the other hand, also struggle with the subject, to whether confirm or disprove their suspicions.

While I cannot tell people what to do, I can try to show people how to see for themselves what their options are, and most importantly, how to take the right decision.

Before I start dabbling into this riddle of semantics, let me quickly explain the basics of sociology: Everyday life.

We are social people.

We live in a world that we share with other people. We connect and interact with them daily. The world was time and space before we even existed, and it will continue to be present after we die.

This unquestionable truth is what we call reality.

In our daily lives, we synchronise our internal sense of time with the that of reality. We can tell, for example, when something is taking longer or faster than usual based on our ability to contrast experiences with the new data that we receive as we go about our business.

This is when the other unquestionable truth comes to mind: Things take time.

Coming out of the closet is no different. From the first time we questioned aspects of our identity or sexuality to the moment that we finally came out of the closet, there had been several steps in between or there should have been. In short: It did not happen simultaneously.

The problem to some people begins when they have accumulated lots of information about LGBTQ issues during their journey, and they want to compress years of thoughts, research and experience, into a small family conversation. It is impossible to do. If you manage to, though, let me know how.

I am not going to say that by following a sensible approach you will succeed because there are families and friends who will refuse to listen regardless. You can, however, pave the way and prepare them to listen.

Just think for a moment about the disparity in knowledge between you and someone who knows nothing about LGBTQ issues. Think about the amount of knowledge that you would have to impart on them before you even discuss coming out.

Some peers and relatives —rare, wonderful creatures— have so much empathy and selfless love that they care without needing to research or understand. If that is your case, consider yourself very lucky.

However, testing the waters and imparting a bit of knowledge in the form of raising awareness on LGBTQ issues, a little at a time, won’t hurt anybody.

To recap:

  • Remember that it took you a while to learn about LGBTQ issues.
  • Remember how your thought processing used to be before you became an advocate.
  • Speak to your peers and friends in a language that they can understand.

I know a lot of people who were openly homophobic before they came out. In fact, there are some studies about that, which suggest that homophobes are potential closet homosexuals themselves.

Let’s not get into that just now, though. Let us just remember that our parents and friends might have the best intentions, but they lack the background information, and will naturally not be in touch with what you’re saying. That doesn’t make them bad people. They are just human.


By Ellie Hope (@elliehopeauthor on facebook/twitter)  


4 Big Mistakes People Should Avoid When Coming Out To Their Spouses

Drawing by Ellie -- Follow ellie on twitter @girlystuffzz
(C) Ellie C.  Follow Ellie on twitter @girlystuffzz

I have heard lots of coming out stories over the years (Would you like to share yours?) and how their families handled it.

Many transgender women ask me: “Ellie, is there any way that I can transition to female and keep my wife/girlfriend? I’m afraid to lose her if I tell her I’m trans.”

The short answer would be: Yes, but you need to work hard at it.

While every woman –and couple– is different, these are some of the worst mistakes that I’ve heard some people made, that even in some cases led to Irreconcilable differences.

1: Hey, I think I’m transgender.

Perhaps this is one of the worst ways to come out to your girlfriend or spouse.  I know how you feel, though. Trust me. But it is much better that you tell them that you are struggling with your gender instead.

Your spouse will be probably more eager to support you if she is given the chance to process things from day one. Saying that you think that you ARE transgender might not be a big deal to you, but it is a big deal to her.

To her it might sound like you’ve been processing it for a while and you’ve made up your mind without her input and consent. Trust me on this. Say you struggle with your gender, but let a therapist assess your degree of gender dysphoria and decide if transition is the right thing for you.

2: I think I want to Experiment with Men

Every couple is different, some wives are ok with certain things, other wives are not. As a rule of thumb, if you are committed to a monogamous relationship, keep it monogamous! Coming out as trans doesn’t give you a free-pass to explore all of the things that the LGBT spectrum has to offer.

You are still pretty much married and you ought to respect her. Plus, as if she weren’t dealing with a lot already.

3:”You don’t support me!

Avoid saying things like these to her. Truth is: it’s easier for you to love your wife than it is for her to love you in your newly-acquired form.  After all she isn’t changing. She’s probably processing, adjusting to love someone who changed the way they look, the way they talk and the way they think. Don’t expect her to be super ecstatic in the beginning. These things take time to sink in, give her room to breathe and draw her own conclusions. She will probably support you, but you definitely need to make concessions. Be ready to negotiate. Find some balance between what both of you can have, and what both of you want or need.

4: “I want our kids to call me mum.”

If your wife has been the mother all along, I would test the waters first. Every couple is different. She may not have a problem with it, or she might flip and storm out of the house.

If you’ve always been their dad, for instance, then I would suggest that you remain as the father figure. There’s nothing wrong with saying that they have a mum and a dad, and dad is a woman, just like mum.  Kids don’t get all wound up over things like these the way we adults do. They assimilate things much faster and easier.  If I were you, since your partner has been the mother all of these years, I would let her decide. Find some common ground. Negotiating is essential.

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